Thursday, November 15, 2012

whitewater missing mountain mod

Not much to say. Haven't worked in a month on CC.
Most of my (little) free time went into making whitewater missing mountains.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

CC new game rules

Followup on my previous post..

After some thinking and reviewing things I now really know what way to go and what to implement.

Months ago I had about half of the new rules in my head (most were very much based on current CC rules) and had implemented that part, and thought I would just continue to add things later. Some things didn't integrate well. Now I have made some changes and it all fits better. I'm happy with that. Less question marks, I have guidelines to follow.

Have about 80 percent now of how it'll play decided. Most of the existing code I can re-use, with some changes.
Some things are totally new. I'm not sure if I will be able to implement them well, write good code that runs fast enough, make good dmd graphics, .. so not sure if these ideas will be implemented or not. But I will try to as they bring additional depth and it would be cool to see my original ideas in reality.

About how different it'll be from the existing game rules: it will be similar and different enough at the same time.
Similar because from the beginning I stated I want to keep the same level of flow, difficulty, .. and I'm bound by playfield inserts and soundcalls. A gunfight is a gunfight. But what is implemented for a gunfight, and how it's started, has changed.

What I've done this week was work on a new skillshot. There's more skill involved than just plunging the pinball with the right force. Also made new dmd graphics for it. My first 'real' dmd graphics.
I've hand drawn them using Paint.Net. Wasn't too bad to work with - set to pixels, showing a pixel grid, leftclick is a black pixel, rightclick a white pixel..

Last week I had seen the Dutch Pinball Teams new Bride of Pinbot running P-Roc. Their dmd animations are amazing. Rendered in 3D Studio Max, they're very smooth and detailed. But a powerful pc has much more processing power than plain WPC hardware. Freewpc / default wpc hardware also has less colors (shades) to use than P-Roc.

I considered the option to also use 3D rendering.
But: I'm not a specialist in 3D rendering. I know some basics, played with it 20 years ago on Amiga computers. Last week I spent some time using free 3D programs like google sketchup and blender.
Learning these programs in detail, just to make some simple dmd animations would take too much time for me. And the wpc hardware has more limitations than P-Roc, so I wouldn't be sure the results would be useable enough.

So therefor I decided not to follow this path. For now I will just paint everything by hand. That's also a huge job, but I'll also learn more along the way, and can always upgrade and replace my early work when I make better dmd pictures later. I'm glad this also has been decided.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Cactus Canyon dmd animations

Contacted Rick of (who owns the rights to make reproduction parts for WMS games now, and with whom people who want to make their own repro parts can cooperate) about my FreeWPC project.  Asked him for permission to re-use existing dmd artwork. I expected to get a no back, but you never know, right ? Getting permission would save me a lot of time..

The answer was as expected, WMS does not allow any of their copyrighted things to be re-used.
I didn't play to use a Bally/WMS logo (I'm that smart) but even 'Cactus Canyon' is a trademarked name, so using that logo (I first planned to draw my own similar looking logo) or even showing that name on the dmd as title for the game is probably a no..
So officially I'm making new rules for some random western themed pinball machine.

Even gamerules are copyrighted so taking over existing rules could be a problem. Hadn't thought about that.
Anyway I didn't plan on copying the rules and change them, having the same feel but still have it different (more difficult / challenging / more strategy / ..).  There will always be similarities because I'm bound by existing playfield layout, the lamp inserts and the text on them (shoot jackpot light will always be a shoot jackpot light) and the existing soundcalls (stampede multiball will always be called stampede multiball).

Back to the drawing board.. will re-think some basic rules I have already implemented, see if I can change them even more.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Cactus Canyon rules

Here's a quick update on the rules I'm programming with FreeWPC for Cactus Canyon.
I had some delays so didn't progress as fast as I did the first weeks. Good thing is I got some small bugs out of the code I wrote earlier.

Installed two different CC tables in visual pinball so I can test with both. Most things look good, timed modes start when they need to start, ..  the framework is looking good, still a few issues to resolve.

Finally I have an idea how gunfights will be started and am busy implementing this.

Spent some time fine-tuning existing modes and making them more challenging. Multiballs like Stampede now have jackpots that increase in value. Good players that can keep a mode running for a while will score much more than someone who can start a mode and make only a handful of jackpots.

Added a new goal to reach before you start gold mine multiball.
Made the framework for a videomode, but have not tested yet if this compiles and runs. If it does then I have ideas to add even more than one videomode..

Did some research about old western movies to get inspiration for additional modes / dmd graphics.
Have some ideas floating around in my mind, now have to let them sink for a while and see what I can come up with. My plan is to integrate some of these ideas into a nice wizard mode.. western movies are great.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Belgian OPEN pinball competition

Great news for competition pinball players !
After many years there's again an OPEN belgian competition.
The past years there was a belgian pinball championship but it was limited to belgian players only.

Now there's a new competition that's open for everyone.
It's on November 3 and 4, more info here:

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Cactus Canyon collectors plate

I finally have a matching collectors plate for my Cactus Canyon number 729 !

No it's not an original, I made it myself. Borrowed an original from a friend, made a silicone mold and cast a reproduction piece. Had the number engraved at a sign shop so it would match the font size and type of the original, and then airbrushed the color myself as the original cast plastic was white.

It's not exatly matching the original: the material used is totally different (resin plastic, originals are a light metal alloy) and the color also isn't a complete match, the original has some metal flakes in the paint that make it look sharper.
But still it's good enough for me as it's probably impossible to find the matching original number for my game, installed on the apron of my game almost nobody will notice any difference..

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

200th post ! and new cactus canyon rules

200th post to this blog ! :-)

Anyway more about the new Cactus Canyon rules I'm programming.

I have not everything defined yet, don't know what the final result will be.

My first idea was to just take the existing CC rules and just extend them with a few extra modes (like Bionic Bart). But the more I worked on this, the more I realised I had a lot of freedom.
I can turn this into anything I want, not what the original designers wanted.

I can take every insert on the playfield and make a special mode for that (catch train, stop train, ..).
I can define myself if modes can be stacked or not, the way they're started, ..
I'm bound by the inserts but can totally change what they stand for - what will you have to do to earn stampede, showdown, combos, .. ?

These unlimited changes make it easy and hard at the same time.
I really like the way this machine plays now. The game rules that exist are fun.
I do not want to ruin this. I also want to keep the same general feel - if you are a CC owner now and like how it plays, I want you to get the same joy when you play my version.
I also want to keep the flow. I was thinking of having modes start as bounties (so you have to shoot the saloon each time), but that will probably make it too much stop-and-go.
One idea was having to shoot the beer target a lot, but that's not an easy shot and making it too much is also not fun for a player.

Otoh I've been studying rulesheets from a lot of other games with more depth, and do want to take over certain things. I'm still searching for the perfect combination - some easy and familiar things that already exist in CC, but at the same time make it a lot deeper, add stacking or mode modes, add more rules and modes, make it more challenging, make strategy more important, ..

I now have programmed 4 new modes and 2 existing ones.. They run in visual pinball. No animations have been drawn yet - this is for later when all modes are ready, then I'll start on dmd animations and fine polishing everyhing.
The idea is to take over other modes like stampede multiball, showdown multiball, goldmine multiball.
I do have settings so you can make the game similar to the existing, or make it more challenging.
Defeating Barts will be changed, that is not programmed yet but I know what I want to do with them.
I also know how I will make Bionic Bart.
But still know I need about 4 other modes and only have a general idea that imo isn't excellent enough yet.

Some things I know I have to implement and I even have no idea how I will do them.
I just have to implement something, try how it plays together with the new modes I have added, then try something else, and see what goes best.
Gunfights are one example. I like how they're implemented now (ball is stopped on the up-post, animation is played, and you have to shoot one raised droptarget on time). But I have no idea what will trigger them, what they will earn when you complete them.
Right now no mode uses the up-post on the inlanes, so I have to make something that uses them :-)

Ranking up is another thing. Now when you defeat a Bart you get a gunfight, win it and you rank up.
That's 2 other things that depend on defeating Bart. I don't really like this, and am considering other goals that would trigger you to rank up, but have not found one that I really like.
Bounties too. What are available bounties, when will you earn one ? No idea yet..

But I do want to make everything as good as possible, and make everything together consistent.
I could easily make up 20 modes in which you have to make certain shots and have them all started as a bounty. But that would make gameplay totally different from what it is now, and it would not be fun or consistent.
The story and experience the player gets playing this game towards the wizard mode needs to be correct.
It has to be fun, challenging, but make sense. All parts have to fit together logically.

Any comments and input are welcome.. if anyone reading this blog is familiar with CC game rules and rulesheets for other games, and want to brainstorm, let me know.
People that enjoy playing pinball in Visual Pinball and want to test, please also let me know.
Within a few weeks I should have a version that's fairly complete with all modes and then need testers that want to play it all in Visual Pinball and give feedback - bugs, but also if it makes sense, if modes are fun or not, ..

new Cactus Canyon rom in freewpc

The last weeks I've also spent a lot of time programming in FreeWPC.
I'm working on new rules for Cactus Canyon.

I really love this pinball machine. It has a great playfield layout (some hard shots, some easy shots, I love the flow of the ramps), great theme, excellent artwork, ..  Everything is great on it except the game rules;
On default settings the game is too easy (my 6 year old daughter can even get wizard mode sometimes !), you really have to put it to extra difficult or adjust some features yourself to make the machine challenging enough.
The rules are also pretty basic, a lot more could have been added.

Cactus Canyon was the last WPC-95 game Williams produced before starting with Pinball2000. Therefor not a lot of machines were produced, it was only meant to be a 'filler' game to keep production lines going. Production was stopped as soon as P2K machines could start.

In the game rules it's most obvious that this game was not complete. Rules are fun but shallow. You really get the impression more could have been implemented, as there are 3 save polly inserts on the playfield but only 1 save polly mode (which is started whenever you complete 3 shots on either of the 3 ramps).
The instruction cards make mention of a 'Bionic Bart' but that mode is not programmed in the game.
Some small details also show there was no time to fine-polish this software, when you finish the wizard mode there's nothing special (no spectacular sound), there's no real match mode, ..

Like I posted a few weeks ago, starting to program in FreeWPC was on my todo-list for a long time already. Now I've started and I'm going along on full speed :)

The advantage of using FreeWPC is that it compiles into a 'real' rom that anyone can plug into their Cactus Canyon pinball machine, without having to buy other expensive hardware.

Programming goes better than expected, although I sometimes lose a lot of time on stupid things :(

FreeWPC is a whole framework, you get to program game rules but the environment is the base OS for the pinball machine and does a lot of things for you.
Display definitions (deffs) that are in the machine file need to exist in the other files you compile, or you'll get a linking error. Same for callset_invoke(), these need a matching callset_entry() or the linking will fail (without giving any indication of what is missing).
I wasted many hours already with these errors.. It's mostly because of the way I program.
For instance I made a modes.c file that's almost completely ready - when you made 3 shots to the left ramp it'll do a callset_invoke() to start the mode for that left ramp, same for the other ramps.. but not all modes have been programmed yet, so the linking fails :(

Whitewater missing mountain mod

Been a while since I posted something here, which means I'm busy with a lot of things;
First made some changes to the website. Dropped a few categories from the homepage and other index pages, decided I will not maintain these anymore. These are pinball in Belgium, the agenda of shows and the things I learned (which was updated bi-weekly).

I'm busy shopping my Attack From Mars pinball machine. Playfield has been removed from the game, everything on top is removed. Now have to remove the bottom assemblies and clean everything.
Cabinet has been sanded, ready to  put new cabinet decals on.
I had shopped this machine when I bought it (7 to 8 years ago) and it's amazing how dirty it is and even how worn some rubbers were. The slingshot rubbers almost broke, theywere so thin !

I'm also busy on making a new Whitewater missing mountain mod.

If you've ever seen the whitewater pinball machine, you know there are mountain shaped plastics in different places. There's a large ramp that's on the left side of the playfield which has a U-shaped turn on the top left of the playfield. Underneath there's nothing, it's completely open, showing the back/side black wood of the machine and an exposed microswitch. Not a nice look.
Someone else had made a mod for this years ago, he had made a new mountain plastic that fit inside this hole.
It made the machine look so much better, it really belonged there;

The mod isn't for sale anymore, so I decided to make my own mountain plastic.
Last week made the base shape using modeling clay. Now it was dried out enough, so yesterday evening I finalized it, build up onto this shape adding the details. I tried to make it look like the other mountai plastics, although that was not easy to do, I'm not a sculptor. Now it has to dry again for a few days.
Then I will make a silicone mold out of it and cast a mountain.
That one I can paint and then I'll see how good it is.. (the model now is in white clay so it's not easy to see it shape correct and predict how it will look painted, as the dark brown paint will stay into the deeper parts).

Thursday, June 28, 2012

FreeWPC installation

Been busy a few hours this week installing FreeWPC.

The P-ROC system got a lot of attention last year as the way to make new rules for existing pinball machines, but you have to buy special hardware for it.

The FreeWPC project exists longer but is less known. It's a way to create your own rom and make new rules for a WPC pinball machine (and soon maybe other brands and models too..) but no extra hardware is needed.. what is created is a valid wpc rom file that you can burn on an eprom and install in your WPC cpu.

Unfortunately it's not easy to do.. I've been following this project for 2 to 3 years now, was interested but never put any real time in it. Once I've tried to install it, but didn't succeed. I did read some manuals/some lines of code, but didn't continue.

Last year someone took the time to create a good installation manualn documenting all the steps needed to setup the whole system. I'm almost finished, then I'll validate this setup by trying to compile a new rom and test it in pinmame/visual pinball.

If that works well, I'll try to program new rules myself. Already have one game in mind for which I've spent time what new and improved rules it should have.

If anyone has experience with assembly, C, programming embedded systems, .. and wants to create new gamerules for WPC games, please join the google discussion group about freewpc and have a look..

Update: managed to get everything installed this weekend. Was able to compile the Corvette rom and test this in pinmame / visual pinball.
Next step is to declare the machine layout of the new game. Then just compile an 'empty' rom for it, without any rules defined. Just try to compile and get it working. Then develop further, try to learn the freewpc instructions and try to add things.. little steps, one by one..
My goal is to always create a new rom with just one part in it, ie light a few lamps. Then shoot a pinball, do 1 effect when it hits a specific target, ..  and when all simple parts are done then try to put it all together.
We'll see how far I get..

Monday, May 14, 2012

RIP Leon Borré

Can't find the words to describe how sad I am. Leon Borré of passed away this weekend.

Probably everyone in the pinball community knows him or has at least heard of him or his work. He was always happy with a positive attitude towards life, always making the best of it. It was always a pleasure seeing him at a show. He was very helpful and put many hours in helping everyone that emailed him, came to his house for repairs, ..
Since a few years we knew this day would come but tried not to think about it..

I remember the first day I came to his house with a broken Lectronamo cpu to repair. Was amazed by his collection of machines, his knowledge and ingenuity.
He taught me the basics of pinball repair, I explained him about homepages and translated the first articles he put online.

Just a few months ago I had to repair a Bally solenoid driver board and took out test-pcb I had made back then, like he had described on his site. Was amazed by the date I had printed the documentation about it - back in 2000.
12 years have passed so fast.

RIP Leon, thanks for all you have done and the good memories.
We miss you.

Friday, March 16, 2012

About the price of the Medieval Madness pinball machine

New article published yesterday:

Some people always ask what makes Medieval Madness so special and why its price seems so high compared to other games. Here's the background history about MM prices and how it evolved over the years.

Just published the article, will probably add some things to it the next days, add some nice pictures, ..

Monday, February 27, 2012

Pinball competition

Got a message saturday afternoon to ask if I was available to play pinball competition that evening.
Sure, why not ? I'm not a competition player but enjoy playing some games.

The competition was organised by

They organise competitions for a few years now. In the past I never entered as there is a lot of demand and when registration opens, it's usually filled in a few minutes (and I never bother to look when registration opens and try to enter).
Thsis years the rules have changed, and teams of 4 players are entered. It was one of these teams that was one player short, so therefor they asked me.

The competition saturday was held at the nice gameroom of
Two large rooms in the basement with a great collection of games, both old to new..
Some of the games I remember are WCS, Diner, Fire, BSD, MM, MB, Sopranos, Whitewater, World Poker Tour, CFTBL, ..

The competition took a while, about 5 hours.. it was always in blocks of 3 games. First played with 2 against 2 of another team. Then there was a zen-game with all players of both teams. Zen-pinball is playing with 2 players of one team, each player controls one flipper button.

Each game scores 5 - 3 - 1 - 0 points for 1st, 2nd, .. position.
We played average, we were happy each time that we didn't end last, on most games our team had 2nd and 3rd position.. unfortunately this wasn't well for the final ranking and we ended up last. Getting the highest score on a game got you 5 points and this is really needed to score points - so when you look at it strategic it's better to have one great player and one bad/average so you get 1st and last place (and thus get 5 points) then having 2 average/good players and end up with 2nd and 3rd place as this only gets you 4 points :-(

Anyway, who cares..
I had a great time, was in a good team, played some nice pinball machines, saw a lot of friends back and met some new people (and finally met people in real life I only knew online).

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

weak upkicker

Went back to repair the Dirty Harry from hell..
it's a game on location where a lot of kids come, the machine isn't in the best condition, and many kids flipping the flippers all the time... well, kids can break anything. really, anything.

If you don't believe me, take a look at this.. on two popbumpers the whole assembly was broken. On both rings, both screws/nuts had just broken off from the popbumper ring, and the metal and bakelite piece had also broken, parts were in the cabinet..

First problem was a wire broken off from the upkicker coil that brings the pinballs onto the ramp of the gun. All 4 pinballs were stuck in there..

Next problem was a melted flipper coil, replaced it with another, the flippers work fine. Adjusted the eos switches so they close halfway the stroke, but probably the kids will melt this new coil too.. just put kids for a few hours behind a pinball machine and let them flip all the time so the coils don't get time to cool off..

Next problem, a weak upkicker in the back. Disassembled the part and noticed why - part of the plunger that kicks the ball up the ramp had broken off. In the photo you see how little was left when with the plunger was raised, only about half a centimeter that extends the coil and tries to kick the ball in the air. Normally this part is 1,5 to 2 centimeter, so the pinball gets a good kick in the air.

I didn't have a replacement upkicker plunger with me, so this was a bit of a problem.
Tested it, but the pinball really didn't have enough power to get onto the ramp. This was a problem as pinballs get stuck there, or the coil can overheat or a fuse blow because the pinball machine continues to fire the coil over and over again in an attempt to kick out the pinball.

So, being creative was the only solution.. had to get this game playable, at least for a few days, until I could come back with the correct plunger.
Real operators would use wood screws but I don't want to damage a playfield :)
So wire straps were the best thing to use.. I just blocked the entrance so the ball couldn't get stuck.

Played a few games and it seems fine.
I do wonder how long it'll last.. not sure how strong these are because the flippers do kick the pinball quite powerful into them.
They're quite fun actually as the pinball is returned VERY fast, sort of a kicker on the latest Stern machines (like Iron Man) that also catapult the pinball back to the flippers, only this is my lowcost version ;-)

And this is not the only feature that's blocked on this game btw..

Another scoop had been blocked with clear packing tape, as pinballs got stuck there in the past.
Not the best solution, but hey, if it works for them, it works for me. At least that's one place where the pinballs won't get stuck anymore, so kids can continue playing pinball..